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Rockport to Harbor 33rd Chamber Music Festival


David Deveau (Paul Carey Goldberg)
David Deveau (Paul Carey Goldberg)

In 2013 Rockport Chamber Music Festival stretched the boundaries of chamber music with semi-staged early Baroque opera by Charpentier and staged 12th-century music drama The Play of Daniel, not to mention the very 21st-century Eviyan Trio (comprising a composer clarinetist, Romanian vocalizing violinist, and electric guitar, doing original performance-art music). But this year looks different. BMInt recently spoke with Artistic Director David Deveau about the upcoming festival which opens on Friday June 6th.

“Last year I had been reveling in the Shalin Liu’s bigger stage and our ability to present things we could never have produced at our original, smaller venue. This year I wanted to get back to our core repertoire, and nothing says chamber music like the string quartet.

“The opening gala will feature the renowned Emerson Quartet in a serious program of the Shostakovich 13th and Schubert Death and the Maiden. Our audiences have long loved the Shostakovich quartets and it did not seem inappropriate to open the season with one of his late and darkest. The Schubert is a staple, with glances back toward Beethoven and forward to Brahms in its blunt dramaticism and ultra-expressive romantic language. There are still a few tickets available for this June 6th opener.

“More quartets will follow, sometimes alone and sometimes with others: Borromeo with Laurence Lesser in the Schubert C-major Quintet, the Shanghai with pianist Wendy Chen in the remarkable Frank Bridge Piano Quintet, and the Parker Quartet with BSO bassist Tom van Dyck in the Dvorak Bass Quintet, to name a few.

“Beyond the string quartet, the Claremont Trio will return with its superb new pianist Andrea Lam. Pianist, and MacArthur recipient Jeremy Denk makes his debut in a characteristically challenging program: Ives’s Concord Sonata and Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Cliburn competition silver medalist Joyce Yang returns for her third solo recital, while the astonishing 25-year-old pianist Charlie Albright debuts with a program including the Schulz-Evler “Blue Danube” paraphrase and the Chopin Etudes op. 25. Chamber music power couple David Finckel, cello, and Wu Han, piano, return on opening weekend, and both the BEMF instrumental ensemble and BSCP make welcome returns. Closing the season is the beloved Imani Winds with an arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Our new Rising Stars seriesappears with the California-based Neave Piano Trio, a truly extraordinary young ensemble; Russian pianist Daria Rabotkina; and the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet. Their concerts are offered at a reduced ticket price while still at RCMF’s expected world-class artistry level.

“We continue ancillary offerings including a masterclass, open rehearsal, preconcert lectures, two Saturday morning family concerts, and “Dinners with David” — that would be me—speaking informally at two Friday evening preconcert suppers, with guest artists, affording the dinner attendees opportunities to ask questions of all of us.”

FLE: Please tell us the hall is aging like a fine violin. We know how fine it sounds to listeners; what’s it like to perform there? Are there special qualities that inform your programming decisions?

Good halls do improve with age. Although the Shalin Liu Performance Center is in only its fifth season, everyone who’s played here from the first musicians onward (including BSCP, pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Garrick Ohlsson, and the Borromeo) agrees is becoming warmer and warmer without sacrificing its trademark crystalline clarity. Part of that is the expansion and contraction of the wood, the settling of the structure, and, yes, dust. (Remember when Jordan Hall was restored and almost everyone felt it was brighter and had lost its warmth, its patina? [BMInt’s acoustician David Griesinger believes the removal of the massive velvet valance was to blame] Part of that comes from the dust settling, literally. We have a superb maintenance and custodial staff, but dust will go where it wants, which is often on the wall stone.)

With respect to programming and ensemble size, the size of the stage naturally has been the determining factor. Virtually none of our classical concerts utilize amplification, so, short of having three brass quintets playing at once, I think the hall is acoustically hospitable to almost any type of group. (A couple of soprano arias have shaken the rafters a bit….)

Shalin Liu Center (Epstein-Joslin photo)
Shalin Liu Center (Epstein-Joslin photo)

Your festival gives Bostonians some of the most intense and festive chamber music experiences of the season. How do you attract such artists? Does the hall help? It must also be your personal magnetism.

The intensity is a result of so much concert activity within five weeks, plus the extras: masterclasses, open rehearsals, family concerts, and lectures. These days I can’t claim magnetism for attracting great musicians, whereas when we started, with a far smaller budget, I did have to pull a few pianists out of my hat (getting Anton Kuerti, John Browning, and Menahem Pressler). With the move to Shalin Liu, everyone wants to perform here and return often. (And the fees are better, which certainly doesn’t hurt.)

What are you yourself doing this after the festival?

Thanks for asking, Lee. The reason I’ve made precious few recordings in my career is that I’ve never enjoyed the process at all. However, after a decade, I just made an all-Schubert CD with my dear friend and colleague the violinist Andres Cardenes. We recorded the three Sonatinas and the great C major Fantasy. This project has renewed my interest in more recording. I have a sabbatical this fall (from MIT, not Rockport) and plan to use it to make at least one new solo CD. I also am touring in Japan in September with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and making my third pilgrimage to Bayreuth in August for the Ring.

Rockport Chamber Music Festival runs from June 6th through July 13th. The RCMF weblink is here.

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